“I feel like the veil becomes harder to take off when you're an adult,” remarked Obie, in one of those rare moments driving a scooter when I could relax the hyperfocus and talk. Discussing writing, he had asked if I was now embarrassed to read my teenage musings. I told him that I thought my teenage poetry was real, raw, and totally me – that there is something so special about writing at his age, like he has a direct line to him, unfiltered.
I learned how to ride a scooter three days ago. Our week-long stay in Pai (a town about 2.5 hours from Chiang Mai up in the mountains - think: hippies, fire-dancers, lush jungles, waterfalls, etc.) turned up an unexpected adventure. The house we had rented was about a 7 min drive from town and there were no songtaews, tuktuks or taxis to be had. So we had a choice – make the kids walk 40 min each way into town or teach me how to drive a scooter.
So during the kids’ iPad time, Chris took me out to the surrounding streets to teach me how to ride.
After only an hour of road training, we launched into what turned out to be two days straight of trial-by-fire Thailand driving – with Obie riding on the back, and Chris riding ahead with the two little ones. There were narrow rutted streets, wide lane highways with overtaking trucks, surprise off-roading (see pic below) where I had to incorporate my too-few mountain biking lessons with Chris over the years, steep inclines and still steeper descents.
I was not so talkative on the bike during these days. Self-affirmations poured out of me (“you got this” over and over, mantra-like), a lot of “I believe in you, Mom” from my cool-as-a-cucumber and biggest cheerleader Obie, and a likely unattractive look on my face etched with battle-tested resolve.
As I sit here three days after this initiation, noticing the soreness (yes, sore) from the full-body clenching, there is something of a metaphor in this learning, in what I did and what my family saw in me.
As you all know, we are on a journey here. And this growth is not just about the kids. Sure, we orient much of the trip to their own edification, but a lot of my energy is going into my growth. I am not quite ready to fully articulate what growth is happening or where it is leading me, but I can say something of moments.
I have come to a halting realization that I lead a bifurcated life, living into a dualism that is no longer serving me. There are many bifurcations I can speak to: mind vs. body, analytical vs. intuitive, planful vs. present, conscientious vs. free, even west coast vs. east coast. But I think much of the bifurcation is rooted in a disconnect between my predilection for the spiritual and my tendency towards the categorical, strategic, and linear. I do not believe that one is more real than the other (perhaps best not to dive into what is real – at least not in this blog post!). I do see that it is time in my own evolution to connect these planes, and that the connections lie for me in the realm of intuition.
So in this stage of my midlife eat-pray-love journey (let’s just fully own that, shall we?), I am attending meditation groups, working with a body worker, reading and writing without goal, and watching the inquiry unfold.
And here I find myself back at my fire engine red scooter. That was not part of my spiritual exploration! But it was. It was an act of faith. It was utterly unplanned. It allowed my kids to watch me embody beginner's mind, stepping into it with equal dose of trepidation and determination. It allowed us to find gems en route that we otherwise would have missed. It opened a part of me that had been dormant for some time: unknowing, vulnerable, clumsy, exhilarated. It was an act of unveiling. And in those few moments (when there were no trucks or cars or motorcycles in sight), when the road was paved just enough, I took my raw hands off the brakes and took in the vast landscapes of rice paddies, the sweet smell of burning in the distance, with no thought about what’s next.